Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tactical voting

Via DPF: Che Tibby suggests left-supporters vote tactically in Tauranga:

How this works is that you give your candidate to the blue team, and your party vote to the red team. Simple. Shameful. But simple. And then it's bye bye Whinny while helping the commies get back into power.

I think NZ First will make the threshhold, so I don't think it will mean "bye bye Whinny" - but it will hurt his feelings. And I think that's a goal well worth pursuing.

I can also think of a few other places left supporters might want to vote tactically:

  • for Jim Anderton (Progressive) in Wigram, to ensure that his party gets into Parliament (ideally bringing at least one other MP with him);
  • for Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel, to provide an electorate backstop for the Greens;
  • for Richard Worth (National) in Epsom, to lock out Rodney. As he says, a vote for Richard Worth equals Richard Worth. A vote for Rodney equals Rodney plus friends plus Richard Worth - all of whom would support a right-wing rather than left-wing government. Casting an electorate vote for Richard Worth improves Labour's chances of forming a government - which ought to make it a no-brainer.

These are electorate votes only, of course. If you're on the left, then you should obviously cast your party vote (the important one) for whichever part of the red team you're most comfortable with.


Anon: I'm not sure how that's a "tactical" vote. It will only change the outcome for Nelson; the overall outcome won't be changed either way.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 10:15:00 AM

I had a huge argument with Peter Aimer in a lecture once about how splitting your vote was by definition about using one of your votes against your actual preference. (i hope that makes sense) He maintained that not voting for the same person and same party meant that you were in some way not voting for what you truly wanted. It was a very strange fight, given that these days tactical voting seems rife amongst the political elite and in marginal electorates.

bit boring though for those of us living in safe red or blue seats with no real alternatives to vote for :-(

Posted by Span : 8/30/2005 10:32:00 AM

Span: I think the important thing is to recognise the general irrelevance of the electorate vote; it can only affect the overall outcome in certain circumstances - namely, helping a party escape the threshhold. Otherwise, its only importance is in choosing the faces - not which parties get to form a government.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 10:49:00 AM

I'm in a safe Labour seat - IMHO voting for the Greens as a party vote here is 'tactical voting' because it helps them make the 5% and makes it more likely I'll get the Labour govt I want rather than the National one I don't - I think this is tactical voting (a different sort - but I'm certainly not strictly "voting against what I truly want")

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 10:56:00 AM

Of course, you could always register as an elector in a 'tactical' seat without actually living there =) hehehe

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 11:04:00 AM

Anon1: well, it certainly helps make the difference between what you want being possible or impossible - and its a tactic I'd heartily endorse (though I think the Greens are probably safe, best to make sure of it).

Anon2: that would be electoral fraud. See s 72 of the Electoral Act 1993. If you know of anyone doing this, you should inform your local Registrar so they can be struck from the roll (see s 95)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 11:23:00 AM

Do you think it's actually possible for the Progressives to get enough votes to bring in two MPs?

If they can't, then it'll surely make more tactical for Progressive voters to vote Labour/Greens and make Jim Anderton's seat an overhang?

Posted by Bren : 8/30/2005 11:32:00 AM

Bren: they did it last time, and in any case I'm edgy about deliberately trying to engineer an overhang - its not how the game should be played.

The Progressives are highly likely to be in Parliament, and so a vote for them improves the chances of getting Matt Robson back again (a decent guy and an asset to the left - excepting his attitudes on booze). I'm more concerned about those supporting the Alliance - they seem to have no visibility and no polling data - and if the race tightens up again the left may not be able to afford to lose even 1% of its vote to the threshhold. But that's obviously a decision for them to make - not me.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 01:11:00 PM

I find stealthily compiling a list of known right wingers of your acquaintance who for some reason or another won't be voting on election day then simply ensuring their democratic inheritance isn't wasted by voting on their behalf (for the left, of course!) is always a blow for democracy and the hard-won tight to vote.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 01:13:00 PM

Further to enrolling in another electorate: a reader has reminded me that scrutiny of the roll was the key to Winston winning the disputed Hunua election in 1978; his supporters went through the roll, found a lot of people who were dead or living elsewhere, and were able to successfully challenge enough voters (and eliminate enough votes) to win.

So: don't do it. It's not just illegal; it's also stupid and pointless.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 01:15:00 PM

Nandor did well in Auckland Central last time. Let's see if we can give him a good run this time, and he might seriously contest it in 2008. I think he could win.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 01:30:00 PM

Hmmm. We seem to have a right-wing troll suggesting criminal activity to make people look bad.

For those who weren't aware, what the above anonymous poster is suggesting is known as "Personation". It is not a "blow for democracy", but a corrupt electoral practice, and carries a penalty of a $4000 fine, a year's jail, plus a 3-year ban on voting.

I cannot stress enough that people should not even consider committing electoral fraud. It undermines the whole process, and brings democracy into disrepute. if we can't win honestly, then we don't deserve to win at all.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 01:32:00 PM

The converse of this is that if you *don't* live in one of the third-party contested seats then there is no downside to voting for the electorate candidate you prefer.

So in Auckland Central, voting for Nandor isn't going to help the Nats - even if Pansy Wong gets elected, it'll be evened out when they work out the list seats.

Posted by Rich : 8/30/2005 01:35:00 PM

Rich: and given the nat candidates on the list, pansy Wong being elected might not be a bad Thing. She's fairly consistently liberal, IIRC, and if she's punting a conservative, then its all good from a liberal point of view.

I really do need to do that electorate comparison sometime...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 01:46:00 PM

I initially thought he meant "blow for democracy" in the sense that Dan Carter's broken leg is a "blow for the All Blacks".

Anyway --- my feeling is that, all other things being equal, I would rather have an opposition backbencher for my electorate MP. Marian Hobbs is my electorate MP at the moment, and we haven't heard anything from her at all, until the last week or two. Maybe an MP with nothing better to do with his/her time would be able to put more effort into local matters..

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 02:54:00 PM

I think that voting for the Progressives is tantamount to voting for Labour. I will not list those numerous areas in which Labour and the Progressives are the same except to say that Matt and Jim have worked with Labour to impose free trade zones - this is hardly left wing.

The race is always going to be tight because neither the Liberal Left nor the Right have substantially grown their vote. I also note that in previous elections, votes between Left and Right have also tended to been tight.

So, given that argument we would be forever in a situation where you had to vote for either Labour or the Greens on the Left (which is, in effect, First Past the Post by de-facto), which defeats the purpose of having proportional representation and would mean that people like myself (and probably other democratic socialist voters) remained dis-enfranchised.

Posted by Comrade_Tweek : 8/30/2005 04:19:00 PM

In Auckland Central the last race was between Tizard, Wong and Nandor and won't be different this year. All three got into parliament anyway, so the tactical way to vote there is Green/Green (although I think Nandor would make a a better electorate MP than the invisible Minister of Auckland Affairs) - but it also highlights the utter irrelevance of electorate races. Why do we bother with them at all? If we abolished all electorate seats we could have pure proportionality and be done with silly billies like single electorate parties such as NZF and UF, and can painlessly kill off the Maori seats too in one go.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 8/30/2005 04:54:00 PM

Tweek: the Progressives are certainly very close to Labour, but I think they have some flavour of their own. Unfortunately, too much of it is in their drug and alcohol policies.

As for Alliance voters feeling constantly squeezed in the long-term by close races, they simply have to grow their vote. If they can't do this, then they're going to remain disenfranchised forever.

(Alternatively, they could support a principled campaign to lower the threshhold. Who knows, if ACT goes, maybe the BRT will see that as a way of getting their stooges back into Parliament).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 04:59:00 PM

Craig: that is essentially what tactical voting is all about - except that it takes a rather wider view of interests. Of course, there'd be less of an incentive if we didn't have this bloody threshhold - but even under FPP there is significant scope for tactical voting (witness the LibDems and the decapitation of the Conservatives in the UK).

As for our troll, I'm simply suspicious. As for the other poster, I was pointedly ignoring their insult - which is often the best way of dealing with that sort of crap.

I would prefer not to ban anonymous comments; I would also prefer not to have to police my comment section. And I'd prefer not to threaten to shut things down, because as Span noted a while ago, the sewer seems to be trying to wage a conscious campaign of disruption against comments on left-wing blogs, and I'd rather not give them the victory. Instead, I'll just stop reading comments, and leave people to wallow in the sewage.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 05:06:00 PM

Uroskin: well, the downside is that it would reduce MP's scope for independence, and make them even more beholden to the parties than they already are - but OTOH, how many MPs have crossed the floor without permission since we got MMP? Backbenchers just don't rebel in our party system any more...

I think it would work well if the threshhold was removed. That would remove all the distortions, and allow support for parties to rise or fall to their natural levels, and make sure that every vote counted equally.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 05:11:00 PM

" and leave people to wallow in the sewage."
It'll get pretty lonely down there, with only sewerage talking to sewerage.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 11:31:00 PM

Dave: less unhappy than I am about the prospect of policing it. I don't want to play censor, and I would rather devote my blog-time to writing posts than cleaning up other people's deposits. If you don't like this, then you can always not read the comments. It's what I do half the time.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/31/2005 12:25:00 AM

I anticipated that you might reply using those justifications. To answer you fully would take up most of the blog and it’s something that I can do on my own blog. But, I will make several short points.

Unfortunately, the Progressives don’t have that much of a favour. Lets face it, what major reforms have they achieved in the past three years? They did achieve Four Weeks Annual leave, however, that was started by Laila Harre prior to her departure from Parliament, they claim the KiwiBank, however, that was achieved in the first term of the Alliance-Labour Government and Paid Parental Leave was also achieved during that term (1999-2002). So what is the use of voting Progressive? They simply don’t have the numbers (The Alliance found it tough going in the first term despite having 10 MPs), Matt Robson by himself is not an adequate counter to Jim and this has been proved during the last term. Equally, when Jim retires from parliament, the Progressives are going to cease to exist, Wigram will go back to Labour and Matt Robson will be outside parliament. Why? It is because the Progressives have no constituency. Jim is, in all reality, an independent MP. Bren’s comments yesterday about the overhang are a far better and more realistic solution.

In terms of growing the Left vote you are right. But, isn’t that what the Alliance is doing by standing? I think that the attitude of saying that they need to grow their vote, but all left wingers need to vote for Labour and the Greens because the vote is so tight, is a self defeating argument and a guarantee that there will not be a left voice for the foreseeable future. I could construct a scenario where in three years time, despite having an increase in their vote, a left party will be faced with the stark choice of standing down in favour of Labour or the Greens. Why? Because people are too afraid that if they vote outside that particular block then the Right will win, because the race will remain tight. This is surely first past the post thinking.

I do agree with the comments about the high threshold, which is one of the highest in the West.

Let’s face it; there is no left wing political party currently in parliament. So those people who do believe in a left vision are being asked to settle for less.

Posted by Comrade_Tweek : 8/31/2005 09:17:00 AM


On the other side of the fence, I don't think any party of the right perfectly reflects my ideal conservatism, but you hit that old conundrum: Are you going to be ideologically purist, or try and make a difference through an imperfect vehicle?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/31/2005 09:33:00 AM

Tweek: Matt Robson has been a strong and consistent voice on human rights, particularly on Ahmed Zaoui and prisoner compensation. Jim Anderton has that whole regional and economic development thing going, trying to find a way we can have our cake and eat it too on free trade. I think these are points of difference with Labour - though clearly not enough to be worth many people's votes (as seen in their consistent low polling). I agree that they're going to disappear when Jim retires - but as long as he stays around they're a useful vehicle and every vote for them actually counts.

I agree that the Alliance is caught in a trap by low polling, and that would-be Alliance voters are going to constantly question whether they should vote their preference, or hold their nose and vote for an imperfect vehicle which, while it will only achieve part of what they want, might at least achieve something. As Craig points out, it's a dilemma faced by every voter; it's just a lot sharper for those beneath the threshhold.

What (if anything) the Alliance can do about this is really a subject for another post (and Span has done a lot of posts about it), but the short version is that I think the particular historical circumstances which led to it having broad support has passed, and now that Labour has returned to the left (in a broad rather than purist sense), they simply have no natural constituency anymore.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/31/2005 10:21:00 AM

Politics is indeed an imperfect creature. However, I’m not arguing for revolutionary socialism, yet, I'm finding it interesting and curious that after being political active for 20 years since my early days at High School, that I’m being lumped in to the same grab-bag as the various Communist sects. I could make comments about Gramsci’s theory of hegemony in this respect.

I think that you are right that this is a bigger discussion than can be done in blog postings and so this will be my last on the topic. However, I disagree with your argument in relation to Labour (I think that it is at the moment comparably closer to the Liberal tradition than Social Democracy) and the peeling away of the left constituency. I agree with you in relation to the need to grow a left constituency however, I think that a left constituency does presently exist and my belief is borne out in the various stats that come out of the election, particularly in terms of second votes. I remember that in the last election 15 percent of Labour voters in an exit poll said that they would have preferred the Alliance as Labour’s coalition partner only those same voters never voted for the Alliance.

Sadly, I feel that this speaks volumes about the New Zealand Left.

Posted by Comrade_Tweek : 8/31/2005 11:34:00 AM

Tweek: Obviously, as a liberal of the "enabling humanity" variety, I have less of a problem with Labour's position. But I'm still not voting for the fuckers.

As for Labour voters favouring the Alliance as a coalition partner in 2002, I find it quite believable. The trick is convincing them to vote for that influence. This election has seen some positive signs that that meme is spreading, at least with the Greens; everyone knows that a vote for the Greens is a vote for a (greener, lefter) Labour-led government, and I am seeing people saying "I support Labour, but I want them to have a decent partner in government". If the Alliance survives, it should work that meme for all its worth, while at the same time trying to build a pool of core supporters like the Greens have, so it won't be such a hard choice in the future.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/31/2005 01:10:00 PM